CHARLESTON, W.V. –Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) announced today the appointment of five senators to serve on the West Virginia Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice. “Speaking on behalf of the senators named to the task force, we look forward to working with the Governor in order to find data-driven solutions to the problems plaguing our juvenile justice system,” says Kessler. The task force was formed through an executive order earlier this year and is similar to the Justice Reinvestment Act that the Governor created in 2012. It will focus on reviewing and making needed and necessary changes to West Virginia’s juvenile justice system.
“I’m naming Senate Majority Whip Bill Laird (D-Fayette) head of the senate delegation to the task force,” says Kessler. “His extensive law enforcement background, in addition to him serving on the Council of State Governments’ prison overcrowding working group, will be extremely beneficial to the task force.”
Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley), who Kessler calls a staunch advocate for children that works tirelessly on children’s issues, and Senator Donald Cookman (D-Hampshire) have been named to the task force as well.
“Senator Cookman, through his service as a circuit court judge, will be a key member of the task force,” says Kessler. “Senator Cookman has witnessed the problems facing our juvenile justice system from the inside and this first-hand knowledge will prove beneficial.”
Senators Clark Barnes (R-Randolph), who Kessler says worked closely with the prison overcrowding working group in 2012 and Chris Walters (R-Putnam), who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, round out the senate members of the bi-partisan task force.
“Overhauling the state’s juvenile justice system is a big undertaking that affects everyone,” says Kessler. “I am confident that the senators I named to the task force will work hard to develop recommendations that will ultimately improve outcomes for youth, families and communities.”